Literacy Symposium Panel 2: Ethical Dimensions of Literacy

Remnants of literacy or why literacy may not matter any more.

Presenter: Jerry Zaslove, BCIT and SFU

On-line teaching takes place through the simulated universe of the new technology (Baudrillard, Turkle, Bakhtin et. al.) This creates difficult problems for transmitting the cultural and aesthetic literacy that humanities and liberal studies teaching have understood traditionally as the study of valuable texts that were negotiated and experienced through the craft-traditional even haptic interaction with speaking and writing individuals. It is necessary to come to some consensus that the neo-literacy of technology swims within the incommensurable community that faces the remnants of aesthetic literacy and the loss of face-to-face interaction. What does this mean for cultural historians? What is lost or gained? I will outline some of the different aspects of the difficulties of on-line teaching in a simulated and incommensurable community that learns through quasi-'Gnostic' technology. Cultural historians cannot avoid that literacy is still a social and an ethical issue and that the re-Feudalization of society along lines of privilege, alienated labor and "second order illiteracy" (Enzensberger) is a going concern of the virtual world. If not defined correctly literacy "will not matter anymore". The emergence of the term as a 'catch-all' term indicates that there is some problem in the humanities in understanding what it is supposed to mean.

Literacy and the prospects for autonomy.

Presenter: Michael Bourke, BCIT

Our understanding of literacy should be informed by a plausible theory of language, at least if our intent is to regard 'literacy' as referring to the ability of language users to understand the texts of the natural language in which they are said to be literate. After presenting two competing approaches to language theory, I shall suggest how the most promising of the two leads us to see a close connection between concepts of literacy and autonomy. This contention lays itself open to Harvey Graff's literacy-myth critique, which resists the temptation to infer such lofty concepts as autonomy from the kind of ability supposed by literacy. I plan to show that, while Graff is right to challenge many grandiose and complacent definitions of 'literacy,' the term is a stranger prodigy than he imagines, and that his efforts to contain the term misconstrue the kind of the linguistic ability to which it refers.

How does the technological epoch affect ethical dimensions of literacy? A review of legitimate textual borrowing.

Presenter: Nasrin Kowkabi, UBC

The purpose of this paper is to provide a brief review of the present challenges in maintaining ethical aspects of textual borrowing in written works of students in a technological society and suggest further studies in this domain. For years, appropriate textual borrowing has been considered as a global norm (Pennycook 1996) in literacy and its violation has been related to a host of other influential factors. Such a violation regarded as 'textual plagiarism' (Pecorari 2003) in an educational setting embodies different aspects calling attention to the significance of learning context, culture, educational level, and -the most recent one- digital technology development. On one hand, some scholars have investigated the salient reverse role of technology, specifically internet (Colvin 2007, Medding 2010) on maintaining appropriate textual borrowing. On the other hand, many students take the view that the 'traditional' concept of inappropriate use of source texts needs to go under modifications (Ma, Wan, and Lu 2008). With a growing dominance of online world, legitimate vs. illegitimate textual borrowing continues to be challenged in other dimensions and scholars find themselves in a dilemma of applying traditional measures and standards in this new epoch.